As the sun sets on summer, food blogger Caroline Yeats shares her tips on how to cook delicious meals this autumn, using fresh seasonal ingredients packed with nutrients:
With the abundance of produce available all year round in supermarkets, it’s sometimes hard to remember when produce is at its best. With my recipes, I encourage people to think about the seasons and let them guide how you eat. My blog, Suppers in Season, is developed from my love of cooking with fresh, local ingredients (some even from my own garden) and a desire to help people connect with produce that is grown locally.
My recipes are, on the whole, uncomplicated, and use limited ingredients, with the onus being on flavours and freshness of the seasonal produce. They have a healthy focus, with a few treats thrown in, and are aimed at everyday cooks.
What’s in season this autumn?
Autumn really is one of the best times for tasty British produce, so instead of picking up your usual bag of salad and pack of broccoli in the supermarket, now is a perfect time to explore farmers’ markets and try some new, local produce.
Leaves and greens
The likes of rocket, watercress and various other, hardier lettuce leaves will still be growing as the weather turns cool so salad can remain on the menu well into autumn. Then there’s cavolo nero and kale, which are all full of vitamins A, K and C. Steam them lightly or massage the leaves with some lemon juice and add cooked quinoa or buckwheat to make a healthy and wholesome warm salad.
Root vegetables are among the star produce at this time of year – sweet from growing through the warmth of the summer and larger than those dug earlier in the year. Beets, carrots and fennel are joined by parsnips, pumpkin and squashes, with celeriac and turnips appearing later in the year. Root vegetables are a great source of fibre and tend to be high in vitamin C, which is very useful for boosting the immune system and warding off the first of the winter colds.
Among the most versatile and delicious root vegetables are beets, in all their varied colours! From the rich dark red of common garden beetroot (wonderful for adding pink colour to any food) to the stunning beauty of candy striped (Chioggia) beets, this amazing vegetable never fails to delight. Try making beetroot muffins (the natural sweetness makes them a healthy treat) or juicing with some fresh ginger and lemon for a zingy immune-boosting breakfast.
With sweet potatoes, squashes and parsnips, roast them or slice them into chunky hand-cut chips.
Whilst colder weather and dark evenings may have you reaching for the takeout menus and unhealthy snacks, try putting autumn vegetables to good use by making some delicious homemade comfort food. Curries are great warming dishes that are easy to make and autumn vegetables are perfect for both. Why not try a creamy cauliflower curry with some fluffy rice?
Brassicas (plants from the mustard family) such as kohlrabi and cabbages (savoy, red and white) can be turned into a delicious and healthy slaw by being grated or finely sliced, and then mixed with a spoonful of natural yogurt and a little mustard. Alternatively, have a go at making sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), which is full of probiotic goodness and a great way to preserve vegetables.
On the fruit front, berry season fades with summer, but stone fruits take their place. Plums, elderberries and damsons make wonderful compotes, which can be made by stewing down the fruits with a little apple juice. I then serve it over porridge on cold mornings.
Apples, blackberries, pears and figs make lovely pies, but serve them with crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt instead of ice cream to limit sugar intake. Apple and pears are equally delicious just slow poached and, if you’re being naughty, served with a dollop of ice cream.
Sloes and quinces go well with savoury dishes or can be made into jams and jellies. Normally adding apples to berries will give you a nice thick preserve thanks to its pectin, but quinces contain a lot of pectin themselves they will make a well-set jam or jelly themselves.
Once set, quince jam goes wonderfully with cheese and biscuits as an alternative to chutney too.
Late summer produce
Aubergine, peas, runner beans, peppers, sweetcorn, tomatoes – the last of the summer vegetables are wonderful for adding a great variety of colour and flavour to the plate.
With leftover tomatoes, make a big batch of tomato sauce (adding onions, garlic, oregano and a little sugar) to put in the freezer. Much tastier and healthier than sauce from a jar, it is easy to prepare and keeps well in the freezer for when you need a quick evening meal. Simply add to pasta or smother over flatbread for a simple homemade pizza.
Also know as the onion family, alliums such as leeks, onions and garlic are amazing for adding a wonderful flavour to any dish. For the best results, be sure to cook them slowly over a low heat with a generous pinch of salt to really bring out the sweetness in them. Leeks and onions are ideal for adding a rich sweetness in hearty soups and stews.
Read more about seasonal food on Caroline's blog, Suppers in Season.